'If You Don't Mind My Telling You'

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"If You Don't Mind my Telling You"  (1917) 
by Holworthy Hall

Extracted from century magazine, V93, 1916-17, pp. 377-393. Accompanying illustrations by Arthur Litle may be omitted.

"If you don't Mind my Telling you"

Author of "Alibi," "The Luck of the Devil," etc.

MR. VALENTINE MOTT, scowling ferociously, made a fierce gesture toward his wife, five miles distant, and removed the hand which he had fitted over the transmitter as soon as the men in the nearest locker unit had begun to sing "How Dry I am!" in close and execrable harmony. Mr. Mott leaned in utter impatience against the wall, and glowered mercilessly at his distant wife, and forthwith interrupted her in a voice freighted with glucose and saccharin.

"Well, I'm awfully sorry," he said. "Yes, I know I promised to come back for lunch; I know all that—I certainly did intend to come back, but— Well, you know how it is; I met this man, and he's a good customer of ours and he wants me to play another round with him. I was just getting ready to change my clothes when he— Oh, I could, but I don't like to offend a man; these buyers are so touchy you would n't— Well, of course; but it's the little personal attentions that count. It's a real opportunity to get solid with him. I don't see how I can get out of it now; he's waiting for me at the first tee this minute. I hope you don't think I'm enjoying it; it's a cold-blooded business proposition; we 're not really paying any attention to golf; he just sort of wants to walk around for the exercise and talk between shots. Well, I would bring him home, but he wants the exercise.— Oh, absolutely! Why, I 'll take you anywhere you say; I had n't planned anything for to-morrow— Not to-night, dear; I can't go out anywhere to-night. Yes, to-morrow, and any night next week, too. I certainly don't! I did n't even expect to play this afternoon, and to-morrow I 'll drive you anywhere you— Oh, it might easily mean a thousand dollars to me. Yes, a thousand. Just as soon as we finish— Oh, no, I would n't do that! The greens committee does n't like to have women on the course on Saturdays. I 'll start home the minute we finish. All right; I'm just as sorry as you are. Good-by!"

Mr. Mott hung up the receiver, exhaled in an abandon of relief, and smartly accosted a cadaverous friend, who happened to be passing through the locker-room:

"Oh, Smithson! Made up yet for the afternoon?" Smithson paused.

"I 've got to go home, Val. Where's the crowd you had this morning?"

"They had to go home, too," said Mr. Mott, implying unutterable weakness on the part of the henpecked miscreants.

"How in thunder do you do it?" asked the cadaverous one in frank envy and injured righteousness. "If I ever managed to get in thirty-six holes just once—"

Mr. Mott waved the hand which had recently done duty as a silencer.

"Easiest thing in the world. Mrs. Mott would n't any more think of spoiling my Saturdays than—well, she just would n't think of it. She knows I'm working like a dog all the week; a man's got to have some recreation."

"That's so; but I can't ever seem to get it over. Well, how were you shooting?"

"Pretty fair—for me." Mr. Mott nodded, moved off in the direction of the grill, and halted on the outskirts of a group which was actively engaged in filing demurrers and replications. "Everybody made up?" he inquired genially.

"I am. How's your game?"

"Not bad—that is, for me," said Mr. Mott. "Anybody looking for an extra man?"

"My foursome's complete. Say, there's a special competition on for the afternoon; heard about it?"

"No." said Mr. Mott. alert. "I thought it was only morning. What is it?"

"Straight medal-play."

"Is that so? I 'll have to see about it. Well, how 're you hitting 'em?"

There was a choral response from the group:


"Never shot worse in my life!"

"Don't speak of it!"

Mr. Mott shook his head in profound sympathy, and went on to the bulletin-board, where he delayed for a moment to inspect the current handicap-list. As he stood there, sniffing contemptuously at his own modest rating, a trio of late arrivals burst through the side door, and bore down upon him, laughing and talking and forecasting the future with that incorrigible golfing optimism which is Phœnix-born every day out of the black ashes of yesterday's sodden facts. Mr. Mott knew all three, and he hailed them cheerfully.

"Hello! Looking for a fourth man?"

"No; somebody's waiting for us. What's the event?"

"Two of 'em, morning and afternoon, both straight medal-play," said Mr. Mott. "Don't you fellows ever read the announcements?"

"Now and then. How were you going this morning?"

"Oh, pretty fair—for me, of course."

The trio hurried away, and Mr. Mott, lingering only to make sure that the tabular results of the competition for the treasurer's cup still remained on the board,—he had n't been put out until the semi-finals, and liked to see his name in the bracket,—strolled into the grill, and cast about him for companionship.

The low-studded room, as Mr. Mott entered it, echoed the mad confusion of a political convention crossed with a dairy restaurant. Crockery clattered against wooden surfaces, plated silver clattered against crockery, tumblers clinked to tumblers, and hobnails grated on the red-tiled floor. Men in knickerbockers and men in flannels huddled close to the round tables and bawled statistics at one another; men in street clothes dragged rattling caddy-bags through from the office; men flushed and perspiring stamped in from the eighteenth green, and clamored loudly at the bar. Disheveled waiters dodged aimlessly about in answer to the insistence of a dozen members simultaneously. Half a hundred voices swelled in extenuation, alibi, defense; half a hundred voices rang clear in joyous prophecy. Drifting clouds of light-gray smoke clung like a canopy to the ceiling. The atmosphere was surcharged with excitement, and Mr. Mott's nostrils dilated as he scented it. The air quivered to the ungodly tumult, and Mr. Mott's ear-drums vibrated as he heard it.

"Waiter! Hang that waiter! Here, you! I—"

"I had a putt for a forty-seven coming in; without that nine on the tenth I'd have had a putt for a forty-one—"

"Come on; make it a ball Nassau—"

"Why should I five you a stroke? Here's my suggestion—"

"All right! All right! Count it up yourself! 5, 7, 4, 9, 6, 6, 8—"

"Hey, Jim! I had a par five—"

"Waiter! Waiter! I did n't order soup!"

"That's ground under repair. It says so on the card—"

"Oh, I could n't hit a balloon."

"If you start us one up on each nine and—"

"Confound it! I did n't make the rules! It costs you two strokes!"

"Telephone! Telephone for Mr. Smithson! Mrs. Smithson calling—"

"Well, my handicap's too low. He's been under ninety twice this year, and still I 've got to give him three strokes—"

"Waiter! Hurry along that club sandwich, will you?"

"If you'd just keep that left shoulder down, Bill, and remember to follow through—"

"I 'll bet you I break 110—"

"Oh, if I could putt, I'd be all right."

"Chick Evans did a seventy-three—"

"Here, give me that check! Oh. come now, that's not right—"

"Then I went all to pieces—"

"Well, if I'd been playing my game—"

"Honest, I have n't touched a club since June—"

"Oh, I was awful! How about you?"


Mr. Mott smiled happily, and button-holed the chairman of the handicap committee.

"Made up yet?"

"Yes. How'd you come out this morning?"

"Rotten!" said Mr. Mott, promptly. "Tore up my card; I was fierce. Know anybody that's looking for a match?"

"Yes, there's a man out by the caddy-house. Don't know who he is, but he's alone."

"Thanks." Mr. Mott edged his way to the outer door, bellowed over his shoulder to one who had bellowed a question at him the answer, "Pretty fair—for me," and emerged to the gravel walk. At this hour the first tee was deserted, but before the professional's tiny house Mr. Mott saw a lanky stranger in an attitude of longing; Mr. Mott drew near and grinned. The stranger grinned in return.

"Waiting for somebody?" asked Mr. Mott.

"No," said the stranger. "Just taking my chances; I'm a new member."

"Indeed! My name's Mott."

"Chapman's mine."

They shook hands.

"I'm alone, too. Suppose we try it?"

"I'd be glad to. Your name up?"

"Not yet."

"I 'll put it up," volunteered Mr. Mott. In the top space on the ruled sheet tacked to the score-board he scrawled his own patronymic, and added his stroke allowance. "What's your handicap?"

"They have n't given me one yet."

"Well," said Mr. Mott, uncertainly, "then you can't very well compete—"

"Oh, I'm not going to. I'm not strong for tournaments, anyway. I 'll just attest your round."

"All right." Mr. Mott dusted his hands, and stepped over to the caddy-master. "A couple of boys ready? Who do I draw? This one? My bag there? Now, son, your job is to watch the ball. You remember that, will you? Let's have the driver." He strode within the fatal inclosure, and swung the club experimentally at a trespassing cigarette stub. The stub leaped forward a yard, accurately on the line. "What do you play around in?"

"Oh, I'm erratic," said Chapman, watching intently. "Suppose you go ahead—take the honor."

"Well, if you say so." He teed an almost new ball, and took his stance; waggled, hesitated, stooped, glanced at his caddy, and glared at him. "Another ball," he said shortly. "Red-line Silver King out of the pocket." The caddy, overwhelmed with guilt, furnished it. It was of the same brand, the same marking, the same weight, and showed the same degree of wear and tear as the original choice; but Mr. Mott, for reasons comprehended only by golfers, regarded it with far greater satisfaction. It was the ball with which he had made the last hole in a par five on the morning round. It was, so to speak, already broken in, trained, biddable. Mr. Mott teed it, and after swinging once or twice in exaggeratedly correct form, lunged downward savagely.

"Good ball!" approved Chapman.

"Too high," said Mr. Mott, with meretricious disgust. It was the longest drive he had made from the first tee in six months.

The stranger hit a prodigious slice out of bounds. On his second attempt the slice was less pronounced; he was in the rough. The two players set out fraternally on their journey.

"Been playing much lately?" inquired Mr. Mott.

"Not a great deal."

"You 've got a fine follow through, though."

"It did n't seem to help that last shot," deprecated Chapman. He selected a spoon, and was hole-high to the left of the green.

"Beautiful! Just a trifle off," commented Mr. Mott. With the sole of his club he patted down a worm-cast; with his heel he deleted a tuft of grass from the complications of his lie. He made his effort, and after it he held himself rooted to the spot until he had verified, by three swings at vacancy, his unexpressed opinion that, given another opportunity, he would have split the flag. "I can't keep my head down," he lamented. "Oh, well—" He turned suddenly to his caddy, and sent a bolt of lightning at him. "Watch this one!" he ordered. And the caddy obediently watched it hobble sixty feet, and disappear in the leaves of a dry trench.

As Mr. Mott. looking aggrievedly at a pair which had come up behind him and were yelling "Fore!" at the top of their lungs, stood on the first green and noted his score, he was impelled to quote history.

"I had a six this morning," he sighed. "It's a tricky green, is n't it?"

"Very," agreed his partner. "You keep the honor all the way, will you? You 're in the tournament, and I'm not."

"Just as you say. On this one you want to aim pretty well to the left of the mound." Mr, Mott drove thirty yards to the right of it. "Doggone it!" he exclaimed, with his hands on his hips, "that club's no earthly good; I can't hit the broad side of a barn with it! It is n't balanced, or something. Further to the left, Mr. Chapman." Here Chapman sent forth a towering drive which at least was out of trouble. "That's safe! You 're lucky."

"I'm not kicking," said Chapman. "But I'm afraid you 're in the pit."

"I see," said Mr. Mott, getting into his stride, "that that fourteen-year-old boy at Merion finally got beaten. Well, I'm glad he did. He's too young to have all that success; it might have spoiled him. Besides, the national's no place for a boy like that."

"He made a seventy-four." said Chapman, "and a seventy-six and a seventy-seven—"

"Oh, that's not so very remarkable. You take these caddies; they watch good players, and get hold of a good swing, and they 're not bothered with nerves—"

"Pardon me, but I think you 're back there about ten yards, Mr. Mott."

"So I am! Much obliged! Fore!"

Within a quarter of a mile there was no one who might conceivably have been endangered by Mr, Mott's recovery from the sand-pits, but his warning cry was both mechanical and peremptory. He eyed the flag, three hundred yards in advance, and with his eye still on it he played the mashy-niblick in the stroke which made Edward Ray internationally famous. It made Mr. Mott apoplectic. Thenceforward he progressed by slow and circuitous stages to the terraced green, and upon his arrival he was too perturbed to sympathize with Chapman, whose iron shot had found a trap, and whose approach was beyond the hole. To be sure, the sinking of a long putt did much to salve the irritation in Mr. Mott's bosom, and although Chapman also holed a twenty-footer, Mr. Mott secretly felt, and generously withheld the statement, that Chapman had been excessively fortunate in the roll of the green.

The third hole was short; that is, it was short for scratch-players. Mr, Mott had seen Carrigan, the club professional, play it with a mashy; he had seen Anderton, the club champion, over-play it with a mid-iron. Therefore Mr. Mott, who, if he could have reached the pin with a full brassy once out of three trials, would have owed sacrifices to the gods and blessings to a beam wind, chose a mid-iron.

"I'm not generally as bad as this," he explained when the ball had found cover in a growth of underbrush. "I'm not getting my wrists into it, that's all. I don't know what's the matter with me to-day. It makes a difference of ten strokes a round."

"Easily," said Chapman. He, too, was off the line, but he was near enough to use a putter while Mr. Mott was still flailing at the underbrush, and he was down in four to Mr. Mott's six.

"Now for a long one," complained Mr. Mott, climbing the eminence to the fourth tee. "Well, I suppose I 'll have to take that driver of Carrigan's again. If I had any sense I'd drive with an iron. Well, never mind. I believe in playing the right club. Watch it, boy!" He hit a screaming liner down the alley for more than two hundred precious yards, and posed diligently and motionlessly, as in the photographs of Vardon, until the ball had not only come to rest, but had also lain quiescent for several seconds. He regarded the club-head in gentle perplexity. He tested the spring of the shaft. He breathed deeply, and made way for Chapman; but even after Chapman had failed by a full nod to equal that tremendous drive, he relentlessly fought down the smile which struggled for its outlet. Indeed, he was rather astonishingly severe and unemotional for a man who had just accomplished a praiseworthy feat.

"You 've just joined the club, Mr. Chapman?"

"Only a week ago, Mr. Mott."

"Pretty nice course, don't you think? It's very hard. It's harder by three strokes than any other course in the metropolitan district, and the fairway's a bit ragged, and the greens are pretty nearly hopeless; but you wait five years! I tell you, a man's got to keep out of the rough on this course or he's dished. I like a stiff course; it's the only kind to have. Where did you play formerly?"

"Over in Boston—Kenilworth."

"Oh! Do you know George Horton?"

"Massachusetts' amateur champion? I should say I do! Do you know George Horton?"

"Well, not exactly," said Mr. Mott, with some haste; "I 've heard about him. If he ever learned to putt, he'd be a wizard, would n't he? Fore!"

"You 're in the pit!" shrilled Mr. Mott's caddy.

"Well, don't tell me about it now!" roared Mr. Mott. "Excuse me, I thought you'd played. Well, of all the—" He saw Chapman's stinging brassy, which had threatened to sail into a grove of pines to westward, suddenly veer to the east, and drop lazily abaft the green.

"Pretty lucky," said Chapman.

"Lucky! I wish I had half your luck! I'd be playing Chick Evans in the finals. See my ball anywhere, caddy?"

"It bounced over."

"Humph!" said Mr. Mott. "Well, why don't you watch it, boy? Tell me it's in the pit, and then— Stand still, will you? Stop rattling those clubs! Say, I did n't see it at all."

"Neither did I," said Chapman. "It was against the sun. It sounded like a clean hit, too."

Mr. Mott shifted the responsibility to his faithful retainer, who was nonchalantly chewing gum.

"Did you mark it, caddy?"

"No, sir; could n't see it drop. Sun's in my eyes."

Mr. Mott snorted, and tossed his clerk to the ground.

"Good Lord!" he snapped. "What d' you think you 're being paid for? D' you think I hire you to lose balls? Anybody can carry the clubs; your job is to watch the ball! Why did n't you mark it? That 'll make three I 've lost to-day, and you—"

"It's on," stated the caddy, chewing rapidly.

"On! Where?"

"Over by the sprinkler."

Mr. Mott coughed daintily, and looked at Chapman under his lashes. Chapman was n't on; Chapman was n't on by a good ten yards, but Mr. Mott was on in three, and the hole was a par five.

"I 've got a chance for a birdie," he whispered to himself, "a chance for a four. It's five hundred and ten yards, and I 've got a chance for a four. Good shot!" Chapman had clipped up neatly.

Mr. Mott took his putter, and made an awkward jab at the ball. It fled at a disconcerting angle. Mr. Mott flushed, and jabbed again. He lifted himself erect, and poured out into the world the offscourings of his innermost soul. He reviled himself, the Silver King golf-ball, the Vaile putter, the greenskeeper, the turf, the contour of the land, the Scotch who had invented the game, and the promoters who had organized the club. As an afterthought, he hurled the putter into a convenient hazard, and, seizing the first weapon which came to hand,—a niblick,—struck so fair and true that the ball went down for a six, one over par.

"Too bad!" said Chapman. "I missed an easy one, myself."

"I had a chance for a four," declared Mr. Mott, loudly. "Of all the rotten putting I ever saw in my life that was the worst. On the green in three, and three putts! These greens are rotten! Where's my driver? Hurry up, there!"

While his mood was of grim resolution, and he concentrated rigidly upon the act. he drove off in excellent form and with highly creditable results.

"There!" he ejaculated. "Now I'm getting back on my game. That old war-club certainly does poke 'em out when I hit 'em right. But three putts, and only one over par at that! If our greens were as good as they 've got at Sleepy Hollow—"

He observed that his companion had again sliced, and by virtue of his own superiority of direction lie was vastly exhilarated. The second shots, too, filled him with passionate glory, for he was safely over the brook, while Chapman had sliced into tall grass. Mr. Mott sidled toward his partner, and made diplomatic overtures of assistance.

"If you don't mind my telling you," he said, "you stand too far in front of the ball. You can't help slicing when you do that. You pull the face of the club right across the ball. You 're getting good distance, but you slice all the time. Stand farther ahead, and you 'll be all right."

"I certainly am slicing 'em," acknowledged the lanky man.

"Well, if you don't mind my telling you—"

"Not a bit!"

"More like this," said Mr. Mott, illustrating. "Go back slower, and let go with your right hand at the top of the swing. And follow through more. Now, you take that last shot of mine; I hit three inches behind the ball, and the follow through saved it. It went as straight as a die. Say, are those people going to stay on that green all night? Fore!"

"Oh, they have n't holed out yet."

"Yes, they have; they 're counting their scores. Some people don't realize there's such a thing as etiquette in this game. Fore!"

He topped into the brook.

"Fore!" said Mr. Mott, waving his niblick.

He hammered the ball into a bank of yielding clay.

"Fore!" rasped Mr. Mott, setting his teeth.

He essayed a pitching stroke, a lofting stroke, an extricating stroke, and two shoveling strokes, and the last of these brought him to solid earth.

"Fore!" shouted Mr. Mott, wild-eyed. He ran an approach to the edge of the green and panted violently. "Four—and I'm on in five," said Mr. Mott, utterly innocent. "Where'd you go?"

"Just off—over by the water-pipe."

"That is n't had. One of you boys take the flag. Good work!"

"Sink it now," urged Chapman.

Mr. Mott tried to sink it, and missed by an inch.

"Throw that back here!" he ordered. The second endeavor was flawless. Legally, Mr. Mott had taken two putts; morally, he had taken one. It was this consciousness of innate ability, this realization that if he had aimed a hair's-breadth farther to the left he would have sunk the first attempt that cheered and inspired him. And Chapman missed a two-footer!

"If you don't mind my telling you," said Mr. Mott, with admirable restraint, "you can putt a whole lot better if you turn the face of your putter over toward the hole. It puts a drag on it. It makes the ball run close to the ground. I had a six; no, seven. That first one should have gone down. Seven."

"Twelve," said his caddy, fearfully.

"Twelve! What in thunder are you talking about? Five on the green—"

"No, sir, ten—"

"Listen! Three in the brook,—" Mr. Mott's mouth opened slowly, and his jaw fell,—"three in the brook," he repeated in horror, "and—"

"And nine out, sir. You yelled 'Fore!' and counted five-"

"Give me the mid-iron," said Mr. Mott, abruptly. "Get down there and mark this shot!" He wheeled to gaze at the scene of the recent dredging operations. "Three in the brook, four, five six, seven— Hey! Stop swinging those clubs! Well, I said it was seven! Three in the brook—"

"Your honor, Mr. Mott."

"Thank you." He teed for the short sixth across a threatening ravine. "Caddy, wake up there!" He turned to his partner with a gesture of Christian resignation. "Don't you wish," he asked, "that just once in a while you'd find a caddy He ran an approach to the edge of the that showed some interest in the game?"

The sixth hole was a trifling matter of a hundred and fifty yards; but to render it attractive to experts, there were mental, physical, and psychological hazards cunningly placed by nature, aided and abetted by Donald Ross. As Mr. Mott wavered on the tee, he saw a deep gully, weed-infested and spotted with frowning rocks; he saw pits bounding and guarding the green; he saw trees and excavations and a stone wall. Upon its mound of sand he saw the Silver King waiting resignedly for its certain punishment. He saw his mid-iron, broad bladed and heavy, a club capable of propelling thirty pennyweight of rubber and silk an eighth of a mile if properly handled. Yet Mr. Mott discounted the inherent qualities of that iron, just as he discounted the elasticity of the golf-ball and the power of his wrists and forearms. He recalled that on the last few occasions of his attack, upon this hole he had hooked over the stone wall, and he wondered dumbly how to prevent a repetition of the error. Instinct warned him to go for the hole, and play with assurance; but for several minutes he had n't been on good terms with his instinct. He struggled to revive the warnings of those who have written text-books, to remember what Haultain or Braid or Vaile has prescribed as antidotes for hooking tee-shots. "Stop talking!" he growled at the caddies. "How d' you think I can drive when you 're talking!" Out of the obscurity of printed words a phrase flashed to his brain, and he was aware that he was about to pivot on the head of the left thigh-bone, working in the cotyloidal cavity of the os innominatum. He placed the mid-iron in position, and told himself that upon his life he was n't to move his right gastrocnemius or sartorius except torsionally. He rehearsed, in one mad instant, platitudes affecting the right elbow, the eyes, the left knee, the interlocking grip, and the distribution of weight. He lifted the club stiffly, and brought it down again. Too cramped! He settled himself more comfortably, and peered at the stone wall. The green, half bathed in golden sunshine, half purplish in dense shadow, seemed to reach out yearning arms to draw the Silver King to its broad bosom. A hundred and fifty yards, par three. Mr. Mott caught his breath in a quick intake, and hooked viciously into the stone wall.

"Oh, tough!" said Chapman.

But the features of Mr. Mott expressed no rage. On the contrary, he was smiling placidly, as a parent smiles at a wayward child. The crisis had come and gone; the most difficult obstacle of the entire round was now a matter of indifference to him; he had known positively that he was destined to hook into the stone wall, and he had done it. Even so, he did n't begrudge his partner that arching shot which spanned the ravine, and lacked not more than a yard or two of carrying the green; on the contrary, he was glad that Chapman had done so well.

"I always dub this hole," he said cheerfully. "I got a two on it last July, but ordinarily I'm satisfied if I get a four. You 're well up there; still a tiny bit of a slice, though."

"I'm working hard enough to straighten 'em out," deprecated Chapman.

"Well, if you take a nice, easy swing, and don't pull your body round, you 'll get good results. I hope you don't mind my telling you."

"Far from it," said Chapman, humbly.

Mr. Mott's caddy pointed to the ball, which was virtually unplayable among the stones. Mr. Mott, now that he had crossed his Rubicon, was suddenly dogged and determined. It was all well enough to flub the drive, but this approach was serious business. He broke off a reed or two that interfered with his stance; he commandeered both caddies to assist him in the removal of sundry large rocks; he bent the grasses so that he had a fighting chance to smash through with his deep-faced mashy. Down on the green Chapman was watching earnestly. On the sixth tee a fast-moving foursome was emitting comments which blew across the ravine, and caused the muscles of Mr. Mott's jaw to tighten significantly. Duffer, was he! He'd show 'em whether he was a duffer or not! He focused on the flag, and swung the mashy in a wide ellipse.

Mr. Mott, by operation of that mysterious and extraordinary sense with which some men are sometimes gifted, had known with utter privity of knowledge that he was sure to recover from the rough. What he had n't known, or remotely suspected, was that he would cover sixty yards with that vicious swipe, and lose his ball in the wilderness of the adjacent jungle. And even in that moment when he most concerned himself with the faultiness of the club and the defects of the ball he was n't nearly so much tortured by the necessity of playing three, still from among the stones, as he was by the necessity of allowing that cynical foursome to go through. His gorge rose at the mere conception of being passed; in match-play he would have conceded the hole instanter rather than suffer the ignominy of signaling a foursome to take precedence; but in medal-play he must finish every hole and hole every putt; so that he fretted impatiently for five long minutes, spoke to his caddy in curt monosyllables, and majestically expelled from the course, as a thief and a pirate, a soiled and tattered renegade who leaned over the wall and offered to sell him two second-hand floaters for a quarter. In days gone by Mr. Mott had bought perhaps a gross of balls from that same urchin, that boy who wearily spent the long summer evenings in beating thicket and brush for abandoned gutties; but to-day he looked mercilessly upon the scoundrel, and saw him for what he was, a trafficker in illicit wares, a golf-hound outlawed and thrice condemned. Besides, only yesterday Mr. Mott had. purchased four balls from him, and two of them were balls that Mr. Mott himself had lost last Sunday.

The foursome, completing their routine with incredible speed and skill, disappeared in the middle distance. Mr. Mott played three, and Mr. Mott played four, and if he had n't kept superhuman control over his temper, he would have dumped his clubs in the nearest pit, brained his caddy with a patent putter, and started incoherently for Bloomingdale. As it was, he merely confirmed the theory that the terminology of masculine hysteria is limited to four suffixes, and played five without caring whether he found the hole or the Hudson River. As a matter of fact, he found the hole.

"Bully!" said Chapman. "I made mine, too; thought we'd better save time."

Mr. Mott, red and perspiring, shook his head sadly.

"I ought to have had a four," he maintained. "I wasted a shot. That's eight strokes I 've absolutely thrown away this round. I ought to have had a four easy. If you don't mind my telling you, you'd better play straight for the big tree. Then your slice 'll make it come around into the fair." Whereupon Mr. Mott hit a very high, very short hook, and as he postured in the guise of Ajax,—save that Ajax presumably had no such costume and no such implement to intensify the dramatic value of his gestures,—he fervently apostrophized the wind, which had taken a perfectly straight ball and blown it into a trap. He was n't influenced in his decision by the sight of -a marker-flag drooping lazily on its staff, nor by the circumstance that Chapman's drive, which attained almost equal height, came to earth without a single degree of deviation from the line of shortest distance.

"The wind took it right around!" flamed Mr. Mott, snatching his niblick. "Fore!"

It was a good out, and Mr. Mott played a goodly third. His fourth, however, was abortive, although the divot flew gracefully. Mr. Mott withheld his analysis until Chapman had curved a half-slice within striking distance of the green, and then his finer sensibilities prompted him to disregard himself and to tutor Chapman.

"That was a nice ball," he began sincerely, "but you 're still slicing. Why don't you try addressing it with the toe of the club? That makes you reach out after it. You try that, and see what it does. And I 've noticed you go back too fast. You can't do that and keep your balance unless you 're a good player. Slow back, and crook your left knee more. Like this!" He foundered an approach which rolled and rolled until it trickled on to the green and stopped dead. "Well, that's the idea, but I did n't get it up enough," said Mr. Mott with modest reserve. Subsequently they each used the putter twice.

The eighth was a sinecure, and they halved it in four. On the ninth tee, to the frank annoyance of another foursome which had overtaken them, Mr. Mott refused to drive until the quartet ahead had left the green, two hundred and twenty-two yards away, uphill.

"A good wallop 'll carry that far sometimes," he explained with dignity. "They 're off now, anyway." Before proceeding to the shot, he condescended to lighten the situation with a ray of humor. "I'd hate to kill anybody," he said, and topped not more than a mallet's length into the tall grass.

From the restive foursome a gruff voice struck harshly upon Mr. Mott's sensitive ears:

"Well, that was a damn' humane impulse all right!"

With a medal score of sixty-three for the first nine, Mr. Mott bade farewell to all thought of a silver trophy for his library, and devoted himself to a keen study of ballistics as exemplified by his partner's chronic slice. For two holes he fairly exuded advice and encouragement, but at the twelfth tee he was staggered to discover that he had counseled an ingrate. Without question, Chapman was improving steadily; the slice was appreciably less, and Mr. Mott had merely said, with the kindest of motives, that Chapman was improving, and that if he'd only remember to stare while he counted three at the spot where the ball had rested before he hit it, he'd do even better. And Chapman, hardly smiling, replied in a tone which was cousin to insult:

"Perhaps if you play your game, Mr. Mott, and let me play mine, we 'll get along well enough as it is."

Mr. Mott would n't have been human if he had n't taken seven on the next hole, and he would n't have been human if he had n't experienced a thrill of primitive triumph when Chapman not only sliced his drive, but also his full mid-iron. Granted that his approach was moderately efficient, Chapman deserved nothing better than a seven, or possibly a six, with divine aid; but when he putted wretchedly off direction, and the ball, deflected by the agency of an unseen slope, curled sharply in toward the cup, and tottered to the lip of it, and dropped, Mr. Mott compressed his lips and said nothing. He realized that comment was superfluous; when a man had that sort of luck, which simply compensated for two earlier mistakes, there was nothing for a righteously indignant opponent to say.

But when Chapman achieved a perfect drive on the thirteenth Mr. Mott burst with information.

"That's the queerest thing I ever saw in my life!"

"What is?"

"Why, that ball was straight as a die! And you stood for a slice!"

"No!" said Chapman.

"But—why, certainly you did. I'd have told you, but you'd begun your swing, and I was afraid of spoiling your shot. It's the funniest thing. Where am I, caddy?"

"In the pit," said the ruminating caddy.

By the time he got out, he perceived that his companion had finished, and was sitting on the bench in the shade. Highly offended at the discourtesy, Mr. Mott whistled to demonstrate his independence, and utilized an unconscionable length of time in his study of topography. To do him justice, he was n't seeking to retaliate: he was resolved that by his own excellence in the short game he would display his lack of nerves and his imperturbability in a trying moment. The man whose partner has played out rather than to wait politely while sand-pits are under exploration is subject to an adjustment of poise; and although Mr. Mott had the satisfaction of leaving no loophole for criticism, he was nevertheless too fundamentally introspective to drive well on the dog-leg fourteenth.

Furthermore, although the region immediately surrounding his ball was n't placarded as ground under repair when Mr. Mott began his onslaught upon the turf, it was indubitably in need of repair when Mr. Mott got through with it. He quarried out a blanket of gravelly soil at each of four desperate offensives, and when he toiled wearily up the hillside to the green he had three putts for an eleven, and he was aware that Chapman, whether befriended or betrayed by fortune, slice or no slice, had beaten him by a margin of many strokes.

But the sun was setting, the end was near, and Chapman was a new member. Mr. Mott relaxed somewhat, tore his score-card to bits, and scattered them on the grass.

"No use keeping that any more," he said. "I can't putt on these plowed fields they call greens. They 're a disgrace to the club, that's what they are. Now, this is what I call a beautiful hole. Four hundred and thirty—over beyond the farthest line of trees. Par five; it ought to be par six."


Mr. Mott was mildly astonished.

"Because it's a hard hole."

"But par's arbitrary, Mr. Mott."

"Yes, but the greens committee—"

"The greens committee has n't anything to do with it. Any hole up to 225 yards is par three, from 226 to 425 is par four, from 426 to 600 is par five. If this is 430 yards, it has to be par five."

Mr. Mott blinked at the sun.

"What makes you think that?"

"I know it."

"Well, I may be wrong, but my impression is that the greens committee fixes the par for the different holes. Anyway, here goes!"

"Nice ball!" said Chapman.

Mr. Mott smiled conciliatingly.

"Tommy Carrigan made that driver for me," he said. "It's a pippin. As soon as I swing I can feel I'm going to hit it I beg your pardon! Did I take your mind off your shot?"

"Not at all. I'm out there about where you are."

"It was a screamer," said Mr. Mott, unaware of the inference to be drawn from the compliment. "As good a drive as I 've seen in a month."

To his immense gratification, he was hole-high on his second shot, and home on his third. He compelled himself to plan for two putts, to insure himself a par five instead of risking all on a bold steal which might prove, by metamorphosis, to be a gift to the devil. In consequence he very nearly holed out, and he was far too enraptured to care what Chapman got. Chapman had manhandled his chip shot, and Mr. Mott had n't noticed the others. Let Chapman account for himself. Par five!

According to the custom duly laid down in such cases, Mr. Mott took many practice swings on the sixteenth tee. Temporarily, he had struck his head upon the stars, and with the pride of a champion he swung with a champion's ease and freedom. Par five! Mr. Mott, with the image of the Vardon statue hovering be- fore his eyes, clipped bits of turf from the scarred tee and ogled the green. Carrigan had overdriven it; it was n't much more than three hundred yards. And the morass directly before the tee, the trap to the left, and the rough to the right, what were they? Who but novices were to be alarmed by the puny hazards such as these? Surely not one who has made the long fifteenth in a par five!

Mr. Mott drove magnificently, and started hastily over the foot-bridge, then halted at the pleasant laughter of his companion, and shamefacedly stood aside. He never looked to see where Chapman drove; his consciousness was riveted upon a small white object far up on the slope. And since, during his walk, he told himself exactly how he should play his approach, how he should stand, how he should swing, he later stood and swung without destructive uncertainty, and so pitched prettily to the pin.

"Three!" whispered Mr. Mott to himself. "One under par! One under par for two holes! Gosh! If I had n't been so rotten up to the fifteenth I'd have had a chance!" Aloud, he said: "Par four's too much for this hole. It ought to be three. What was yours?"

"Four," said Chapman. "Your approach was too good; it was a wonder."

"Pure wrist shot. Notice how I took the club back? Sort of scoop the ball up—pick it up clean? That's what I 've been working for—pick 'em up clean with lots of back spin. You get that by sort of sliding under the ball. Well, two more to go!"

"Let's make 'em good!" adjured Chapman.

"One under par for two holes," thought Mr. Mott, slashing a low drive to the open. "Say, I guess Chick Evans would n't turn up his nose at that, eh? A five and a three! I was—let's see—thirty-eight for five holes, and a five and a three make forty-six. Oh, I beg your pardon!" He was wool-gathering squarely in front of Chapman, who presently put a sliced ball somewhat beyond Mr. Mott's. "Gosh, what a wonderful day for golf!" said Mr. Mott, enthusiastically. "Not a breath of wind, not too hot, just right."

"Suits me. You got a nice drive there."

"Too high," said Mr. Mott, judgmatically. He played a jumping shot which ran briskly over the shallow pit guarding the green, and came to a standstill not twenty feet from the cup. He putted, and was dead. He holed out with neatness and precision, and knew that he had beaten Chapman by a stroke. "Gad, what a green!" said Mr. Mott, pop-eyed. "Like a billiard-table. We 've got an English greenskeeper; he's a wonder. Sleepy Hollow and Pine Valley have nothing on us."

"You 're finishing strong, Mr. Mott. Go to it!"

"One under par for three holes," shouted Mr. Mott's dual personality to Mr. Mott. "And—how many am I to here?" To Chapman he said, "I'm trying to remember—what did I have on the tenth?"

"Six," said Chapman.

"Why, are you sure?"


"Well, I thought I remembered it was six,—I 've been counting up,—but—"

"I can name every stroke you 've played since you started," said Chapman. "It gets to be second nature after a while. I know every shot we 've both played."

Mr. Mott looked doubtful.

"What was my fourth shot on the fourth hole?"

"Brassy to the green," said Chapman. "You got a six."

"Well, I 'll be-what did I make on the seventh hole?"


"Well, what was my third shot on the tenth?"

"Just a minute—why, a topped mashy into the trap. You were on in four and down in six."

Mr. Mott prepared to drive.

"Do you always remember scores like that?"


Mr. Mott drove far down the fairway. Exalted and emboldened, he ventured to explain briefly just how he had done it. Then when Chapman had hit a long, low ball which developed a faint slice as it dipped to the hollows, Mr. Mott was constrained to offer condolence.

"If you just get that kink out of your shots you 'll play under a hundred," he stated flatly.

"Well, I hope so."

"Nothing in the world but slow wrist action. Look! You don't see me slicing many balls, do you? Watch how I get my wrists into this one!" He was unerringly on the line, and Chapman nodded understandingly.

"You could n't ask anything better than that."

"And the best of it is," said Mr. Mott, glowing, "that I always know what's the matter with me. I know just how you feel. Now go after this one! Easy—and follow through! Oh—too bad!"

"It's safe, is n't it?"

"Yes, it's almost up to the brook; but if you'd gone into the woods, it would have been a lost ball. This way!" Mr. Mott illustrated once more. "Here she goes!" And he made his third consecutive shot which was without reproach.

Chapman, however, sliced even with his full mashy, which was barely off the green, and Mr. Mott sighed for him. For himself, he ran up alongside. If he could go down in two more, he would have played the last four holes in par! Mr. Mott reached for his putter, and took it tremblingly. He bent over the ball, and observed that it was smaller than he had suspected. The hole, too, was impossibly small. Mr. Mott's lips formed the word "Fore!" and he tapped impotently. The ball rolled in, swerved, struck a transient leaf, and Mr. Mott, his mind erased of any conception of a partner, or of the etiquette of the links, dashed forward. Two feet to the cup, two feet for a six, and the last four holes in par! Fifty-six for the last nine—his record! Mr. Mott, gasping, clutched the putter, and struck blindly, and heard the click of the contact, and saw a yawning gulf, lined with zinc, open wide to receive the Silver King. He stood up, choked with emotion.

"The—the last four holes in—in par!" he faltered.

"Hold the flag, boy!" said Chapman.

Mr. Mott watched, fascinated. Inwardly he knew, before Chapman putted, that the stroke was too light; and as the lanky stranger strolled up for further trial, Mr. Mott, in his terrific success, blurted out his final charge.

"If you don't mind my telling you," he said, "rest your right hand on your knee, and—"

The ball rattled into the cup. From a camp-chair under the awning, Anderton, the club champion, rose and sauntered toward them.

"Mr. Chapman!" said Mr. Mott.

"Thank you, Mr. Mott." They shook hands.

"I was par for the last four holes! Listen! If vou did n't slice so much—"


"Well, you saw what I did. I came back in fifty-six, and the last four in par! Why, if you can play an even game with me now—"

"Hello, Chap," said Anderton, at his elbow. "How was it going?"

"Fine!" said Mr. Mott. "If he only did n't slice so much! How did we come out? I was ll9, and you—"

"Seventy-nine," said Chapman.

"No! You could n't have been as bad as that! Why—"

"Seventy-nine for eighteen holes," said Chapman, quietly.

Mr. Mott's eyes widened. His mouth sagged. A spot of color appeared above his cheek-bones.

"Why, that's impossible. That's—"

"Thirty-five for first nine, and forty for the last."

Mr. Mott shook as though with palsy, and the putter fell from his hands.

"Why, I thought we were about even."

"Count 'em up," said Chapman, soberly. "5, 5, 4, 5, 5, 2, 4, 4, 5; is n't that 39? 5, 4, 4, 2, 6, 5, 4, 5, 5; is n't that 40?"

"You—you did n't get—a two on the thirteenth!"

"I holed out while you were in the pit."

It occurred to Mr. Mott that on only one or two holes had he taken heed of Chapman's shots except to note that the majority of them were sliced. Now that he flogged his memory for the facts, he seemed dimly to recognize that even those swerving shots had gone off smoothly, and that Chapman had approached sweetly, and putted with distinction. But seventy-nine! And he had volunteered to coach this man; he had showed him in detail how various shots should be made; he had claimed the privilege of instructing a stranger who had hit hardly a straight ball, and still scored under eighty.

"Wh—what's your handicap?" he stammered.

Anderton put his arm over the shoulders of the lanky stranger.

"He had three in New England," he said, "but in the Met. I suppose they 'll give him four. How were you going, Mr. Mott?"

"Oh, pretty fair—for me," said Mr. Mott, feebly.

But as he left the club-house his heart was again proud and high. He had dismissed from his mind all thought of his partner's performance; he was sustained and soothed by the remembrance of the last nine holes in fifty-six, and the last four in par. He felt a sturdy manhood, confident and unafraid. To-day he had scored ll9; to-morrow it might be that he, too, should play the full round as he had played the last four holes to-day; upon such dreams are founded the wealth of the athletic outfitters. The fear of hazards had gone from him. Timidity on the greens was a thing of the past. If he could lower his average to 110 by the end of the season,—and with four holes in par he could conceivably do five next Saturday, or six or seven,—he might get down to, say, ninety by next year. And par for the course was a mere seventy-three. If a fourteen-year-old boy could do it, why not Mr. Mott? If a chronic slicer could crack eighty, why not Mr. Mott? He saw roseate visions of himself at scratch; Walter Travis was middle-aged before he took up the game.

"The last four in par!" whispered Mr. Mott as he went up the steps of his house.

"Well," said Mrs. Mott, pathetically, as she came to greet him, "was it worth a thousand dollars for you, Val, to stay away all this afternoon?"

"Every cent of it!" cried Mr. Mott, hilariously. "Say, let's motor up the road somewhere; want to? Let's have dinner out! Here, I know! We 'll run up to Tumble Inn. Get the Smithsons, and we 'll have a party."

"I thought you could n't go out to-night!"

"Rot! Call the Smithsons, will you?"

"It must have been worth while, your staying," said Mrs. Mott, brightening.

"Well, it was," said Mr. Mott. "And I got the last four holes in par! Hurry up and telephone!"

And as he waited for her report, the man who had played ll9 stood before the long mirror in the hallway, and gripped an imaginary club, and swung it, and finished gloriously, with the body well twisted and the hands close to the neck, and grinned happily at the reflection of another Vardon in the making. For this is at once the faith and the hope, the Credo and the Te Deum of the golfer of all time and of whatever ability. Thank God for to-morrow!

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1936, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 86 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.